The Iron Lung
by Stanley Plumly
So this is the dust that passes through porcelain,
so this is the unwashed glass left over from supper,
so this is the dust in the attic, in August,
and this is the down on the breath of the sleeper . . . .
If we could fold our arms, but we can’t.
If we could cross our legs, but we can’t.
If we could put the mind to rest . . . .
But our fathers have put this task before us.
I can neither move nor rise.
The neighborhood is gathering, and now
my father is lifting me into the ambulance
among the faces of my family. His face is
a blur or a bruise and he holds me
as if I had just been born. When I wake
I am breathing out of all proportion to myself.
My whole body is a lung; I am floating
above a doorway or a grave. And I know
I am in this breathing room as one
who understands how breath is passed
from father to son and back again.
At night, when my father comes to talk,
I tell him we have shared this body long enough.
He nods, like the speaker in a dream.
He knows that I know we are only talking.
Once there was a machine for breathing.
It would embrace the body and make a kind of love.
And when it was finished it would rise
like nothing at all above the earth
to drift through the daylight silence.
But at dark, in deep summer, if you thought you heard
something like your mother’s voice calling you home,
you could lie down where you were and listen to the dead.
How Big of a Breath to Stay Afloat jacintojc
Transfiguration Between the Graves
- Arlington Cemetery
by Carmen Calatayud
I cup the flame in my watery palms.
It doesn't smell like burning skin anymore.
I'm the stone cutter
who protects me from my grief.
I'm terrified I'll bloom wide open.
I want to take my nerves
and drag them from the mud,
prove the moon isn't mechanical
and worm away from pointing fingers
and god-sized lies.
I want to sit in the broken rain
and watch headstones dance and collapse
and turn into the green smoke
I could never see before.
I want electricity to drench me.
I'm a shaky miracle, gargling fire and water.
I want chaos and beauty in one big bite.
I want to feel the sum of all my lives
and feel the zero before I was born,
because my hands are full of flames
and so empty the palm lines are gone.
I want to sweat without explaining
and hold my death for an instant.
I want to be part of the air that travels
between grave and sky,
that visits this city and brings flowers to it,
that filters the tired bones
above and below the ground.
I want to float unnoticed
and swallow myself
and wait for nothing like a saint.